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Sacred Springs

10 11 Peaceful St Augustines Well is situated near the abbey ruins below the most famous hill figure in Britain, the Cerne Abbas giant illustrated. His presence is a potent symbol of fertility above the surrounding rich countryside. The water of the well was used to cure general illness and sore eyes. The well was also known as the Silver Well, with pagan origins, a place where silver might be thrown as an offering. Its name may also describe the appearance of the water. A legend tells that St Augustine travelled to Cerne and struck his staff to the ground in the valley below the giant. Here a miraculous spring gushed forth, a common story at wells. Many holy wells have particular rituals for drinking their water to ensure the effectiveness of the cure. At this well the water must be drunk from a laurel leaf, whilst looking towards the church and away from the giant. At other wells different vessels must be used, such as a limpet shell at St Govans Well, Wales, or even, rather alarmingly, a skull. The skull links wells to heads see too page 46. Another powerful healing well in Dorset is near Upwey Church. As at St Augustines Well, the water is drunk from a laurel leaf and then a wish is made. To the west, near the pretty seaside town of Lyme Regis, are the waters of St Candidas Well at Morcombelake, once used to cure eye troubles. ST AuGuSTINES WEll Cerne Abbas, Dorset
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